August 2012

The Unproductive Agent Exposed

by Victor Lund on August 31, 2012

REALTOR Ocean Front Expert

In today’s Real Trends eMail update, Steve Murray talks about an important topic for REALTOR Associations and Brokers – the unproductive agent. The unproductive agent is both a blessing and an anchor on our industry. However, taking advantage of the unproductive agent may be a great source of new business for an emerging business model in real estate brokerage. The unproductive agent is a great source of revenue. Lets face the reality – without the unproductive agent paying dues to REALTOR Associations, the Associations would fail, or at least be delimited. The nation’s largest trade association, which does the most to affect legislations that protects private property rights, would have about 44% less revenue. If you cut NAR in half, and cut local Associations in half – you probably cut the effectiveness by more than half. In other words, 1,000,000 minus 500,000 is likely equal to less than 500,000. At some point, the threshold falls below the level needed to be effective. But wait, there is more. If you cut the number of members in an MLS in half, you drive up costs for operating the MLS. The dollar cost averaging across productive and unproductive agents is lost and fees would need to be raised or services would need to be cut. The cost averaging of dollars per subscriber per month has allowed the MLS to wholesale services to Associations for between $12 and $25 per month; or retail services directly to agents for $30 – $50 per month. In other words, full MLS services are often less than the cost even the simplest technology tool like IDX. Murray’s article points out that the new brokerage model targets lower producers. Forget about commission splits, and focus on what the brokerage can sell the agent. You may find that 90% splits with a compulsory monthly desk and technology fee may generate more money to the brokerage than 70-30 or 60-40 splits. Think about it. Run some pro formas. Steve Murray is a consultant I have known for years and greatly respect. I read his daily newsletter Real Trends, attend his conferences when able, and purchase all of his research. His niche has always been supporting brokers on Mergers, Acquisitions, and valuations. He has a solid history of success. If you are not familiar with Steve Murray or Real Trends – Here is a link to his website – http://www.realtrends.com/.  

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What’s Right for Me?

by Victor Lund on August 29, 2012

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A new era is born for MLSs delivering technology solutions to their subscribers: Tiered Pricing. What do I get from My MLS/Association? Service levels offered by MLSs across the nation vary widely. Some MLS offerings are as minimal as a base MLS system, rules enforcement, and a RETS server. No training or help desk (vendor does that); no tax system, just a core MLS. Minimum Service MLS: This is really not as minimum as it sounds. MLS systems today are feature rich and have many necessary features that come standard like: CMA; User defined Hot Sheet; Roster; Prospect Management & Consumer Property Alerts; Mapping and Driving directions; Basic Report Writer; Basic Statistics; Messaging System; Reverse Prospecting; and crappy wireless. Full or Premium Service MLS: Some MLSs go all out in terms of services included in your base MLS fees and include premium services like: Help Desk; Training; System Security; eMail; Integrated Tax; Showing Solutions; Market Statistics; Virtual Tours; Agent Websites; IDX; Fax; Transaction Management; Document Management; Electronic Signatures; Forms; Data Sharing; Appraiser Tools; MLS Consumer Website; iPad MLS; mobile MLS; AVM; Listing Syndication; VOW website; Single Sign On; Agent Ratings; and more. Need for Tiered Pricing Depending on the agent, their need for MLS services will range from basic to everything. Although in truth, most MLSs offering full service only see a 5% penetration rate for many of the premium services. Sidebar: Savvy MLSs do not buy licenses for all subscribers; rather they purchase licenses for agents who adopt and use the product. This is a primary reason why MLSs may want to only provide single sign on to products that are licensed to all members. Having agents sign up for premium services limits the number of licenses the MLS purchases to only those agents that use the service. Audit logins and remove agents who have not signed in a year or who have left the industry. The reason why MLSs have flat service levels and flat fee structures today is because it is easy – one fee for everyone makes billing simple. It is also the way it has always been (legacy fees from old Association days with listing books). Additionally, the laws of large numbers apply. In many cases, the license fee for offering a service to the entire MLS is about the same as licensing a product or service for 10% to 25%; sometimes more or less. […]

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How the MLS ‘Language’ May Die

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2012

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In many ways, the MLS is like a dictionary. They each contain the language of their respective communities – in a dictionary, these are words; in the context of the MLS, these are listings. The MLS and the dictionary each began as books and have been modernized and digitized to fit the online space. A dictionary does not tell a story, it is merely a set of words. In a similar way, the tools that are layered on top of MLS data give the agent the ability to verbalize data into meaning. The data does not have real meaning until it is crafted into a story by the agent, or by the software that the agent uses. The MLS Language May Die The most common process leading to language death is one in which a community of speakers of one language becomes bilingual in another language, and gradually shifts allegiance to the second language until they cease to use their original language. In some way, third party websites are becoming that second language in real estate. What is ironic is that brokers and agents who stand to gain the most by preserving the MLS are instigating the process of assimilating the consumer to the new language. How long will it be before consumers abandon the process of using an agent to list their property in the MLS, and simply do it themselves on third party websites? How long will it be before agents abandon the MLS and simply put their listings on third party websites that do not have offers of compensation for other agents? Today’s MLS needs revitalization, no doubt. The MLS must be the listing language of the elite professionals. Moreover, consumers need to be able to access that listing language. It would also be helpful if consumers held the same distain for “slang,’ in this case, the bad data quality of third party websites. Curators of the MLS Language The term used for language experts that develop dictionaries is “lexicographer.” In many ways, MLS leaders shoulder a similar burden as lexicographers. They must identify the needs of their users, then define and organize their language (listings) in a way that users can easily access and understand. It’s no small task – and yet, like lexicographers, theirs is often a thankless job. What critics fail to recognize is that MLS leadership plays a critical role in keeping alive […]

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Business Intelligence

WAV Group has always been passionate about research and helping our industry obtain data that assists professionals in making the right decisions for their organizations.  We conduct numerous studies every year to that end and this September we will be fielding one of the most important studies we do, the annual WAV Group 2012 MLS Technology Survey.  We started this survey in 2011 meaning 2012 will be the first year we are able to see how this critical data is trending and to see how our vendors are moving up or down in various rating areas. We would like every MLS to take part and to benefit from the free reports that are provided to all participants. How To Participate To be included in the WAV Group 2012 MLS Technology Survey please send an email to sean@wavgroup.com or call us at 716-839-4628. The objective of the annual the WAV Group MLS Technology Survey is to provide a high level comparative satisfaction rating of the MLS technology used in our industry as well as to provide you trending information from year to year in regards to this technology.  The more MLSs that participate the more valuable that information will be for all of us. When your MLS participates in the MLS Technology Survey you will receive the following reports FREE of charge: Executive Summary Report – An overview of the full survey results for all systems for all users. Your MLS System Report – Summary report for all users nationally for your specific MLS system. MLS Means Rating Chart – See clearly how your system’s ratings compared to other system’s ratings in categories such as User Interface, Speed, Dependability and specific user features like Search and CMA. In 2011, over 70 MLSs participated amounting to almost 12,000 agents and staff taking part.  In 2012 we expect to have even more participants.  Unlike other surveys that only measure staff responses, which are certainly important, our survey also reaches out to the brokers, agents and other members that use the MLS system every day.   This is critical to get a true understanding of user satisfaction. The following chart on overall satisfaction from last year’s Executive Summary, which you receive free for participating, shows the differences in user and staff ratings in the 2011 survey.  Participation in the 2012 survey means you will be able to see how these same systems are being rated this […]

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MLS Photo Fail

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2012

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“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a rather famous old adage that refers to the notion that an idea with complex meaning can be conveyed in a single image. It allows the viewer to experience large amounts of information in a moment, and in doing so – often have an emotional reaction. In real estate, photos are the most powerful and compelling elements of a listing – they are the essence of meaning. Many suggest that without the substance of a photo, you fundamentally do not have a listing. The notion dates back to the days of  Aristotle, who suggested that imagery is the purest definition of that which is real. Imagery not only identifies an object, but eschews volumes about its property, or state of being. A plant is just a plant, but beheld more glorious in the spring of bloom than in the struggle of extinction. Today, even the worst camera on the crappiest cell phone takes glorious photos in high-definition with splendid resolution. Many agents extend great bounty for professional photography on their listing so that they might expose the beauty of a home. Technologists like virtual tour and print marketing companies have waited for years to take these raw, high quality photos and automate their conversion into artistry. Today is their day,  if they can only survive one foe, the MLS. The MLS is the villan to beauty, to artistry, to emotion. They take the loveliest and grandest of megapixels and process them into low resolution grainy oblivion. There was a time for this pragmatist, but his day is day has past. Long gone are the days of dial-up modems. Even mobile devices pass data at 3G or higher speeds. Even the lowliest of device screens displays in high resolution. Terabyte data storage drives are $20. Bandwidth costs are trending down each year. Why does the MLS still destroy the photo quality of the images it receives? If you want to raise the bar in real estate as an MLS, stop destroying high quality photography. Accept it. Embrace it. Push it out in your data feeds back to your brokers so they can drive their marketing efforts. Perhaps you don’t know this, but brokers and agents spend hours deleting the photos they get from you and reloading the originals to power their print and virtual tour marketing. They provide you with great photos and you destroy them and return garbage. Stop that! If your MLS has […]

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MRED Gives Company Website a Facelift

by Marilyn Wilson on August 20, 2012

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MRED Launches the New Look and Enhanced Functionality of MREDLLC.com LISLE, IL–(Marketwire – Aug 20, 2012) – Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), Chicagoland’s multiple listing service (MLS), announced that it has launched the new MREDLLC.com. This redesigned website gives real estate professionals across the Midwest a more interactive and user friendly site with which to learn about the extensive set of products and services provided by MRED, including easy access to its workhorse MLS system, connectMLS™. This new site is the place to find tools Realtors® can use and to get all of the information and training on how to use them. MRED retained the services of Warren McKenna Design Group (WMDesignGroup.com) of Chicago, Illinois, for the planning, design and building of the new site. WMDG was chosen based on its excellence in execution in creating and updating websites for other organizations in the real estate industry. ”It’s all about creating an experience that anticipates subscribers’ needs and delivers results in the field,” Warren McKenna, Principal of WMDG, adds. Users will find the new MREDLLC.com to be easy to navigate and very user friendly. The tabs across the top of the site give the visitor quick and easy access to general information on various topics. The powerful search feature allows you to enter a keyword and all documentation, links and information matching that keyword will be immediately available and accessible. A substantial amount of MREDLLC.com is dedicated to MRED’s products and services. By hovering over the Products and Resources tab, you are given an extensive drop down menu with links to descriptions of MRED’s products by category, including: MLS and Public Records; Enhanced Property Info; Transaction Assistance; Marketing Tools; Statistics and Analytics; Mobile; Public Service Apps; Real Estate News and Views; and Data Licensing. Visitors can then click on the desired item and get all the information needed on a single page dedicated to that product. They can even sign up for training right then and there. The Training tab itself has been enhanced and organized for ease of use. The Class Finder functionality has made searching and registering for classes, or scheduling custom training and webinars easier than ever. “We are very excited about the launch of the new MREDLLC.com,” said MRED CEO Russ Bergeron. “The new MREDLLC.com allows our customers to easily access all the products and services that MRED offers. We love the much cleaner, more up to date look. One […]

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Contagion is a New Word for Brokers

by Victor Lund on August 17, 2012

ListingSyndicationsmall

If you spend much time around me, you would know that I get attached to words like “curate,” and use them so frequently that it annoys the good people who are around me every day. I am working on that. I have been a student of the effort to develop, to launch, and to save the Euro. A currency sharing standard among nations is more serious, and more important than a data sharing standard. However, in many ways real estate data sharing standards are analogous. I love some of the terminology used by economists and leaders to talk about the Euro. One word that hit my radar today is Contagion Contagion Spread of a disease by physical contact Harmful Influence Spread of feeling Contagion in the context of the Euro relates to how currency management by some currency sharing countries like Greece, Spain, or France may pass along a detrimental virus to other currency sharing countries like Germany. Contagion in the context of real estate data may relate to how data sharing standards by some brokers may spread a detrimental virus to other brokers. Contagion in the MLS Today, brokers share data in the MLS to enjoy the benefit of offers of compensation among other participating brokers. There is some degree of contagion here in so far as a company that has a large stockpile of listings allows brokers with no listings to represent those listings to their buyers. There are plenty of countries around the world where brokerages do not share with other brokers because of fear of contagion. The brokers participating in today’s MLS in America generally believe that the contagion of participation and sharing data in the MLS is acceptable within certain parameters: The MLS is a closed, private, and professional service Everyone is a licensed broker and agent in the State State law holds each party accountable There are MLS rules of conduct and arbitration to manage differences Most subscribers are REALTORS who agree to a code of ethics NO FSBO lsitings At the end of the day, there is very little effort by brokers to leave the MLS. However, like the Euro, the existence of brokers in the MLS that do not conduct transactions may become a contagion. Simply being a licensed broker and a dues paying participant may be too low of an entry point to be granted the rights to use the data […]

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Great Companies Execute Effectively

by Victor Lund on August 16, 2012

zillow Logo

Marilyn Wilson’s post yesterday set off a storm. The DMV, known for its historically horrid service experience has changed their ways. They do a good job, at least here in San Luis Obsipo, CA. When WAV Group is providing strategic planning support to an MLS, Association, Technology company, or broker – we measure stuff. There is usually a comparison chart created that shows a checklist of features or service offerings that compares company or product A vs. company or product B, C, and D. This is an important exercise and the information drawn from this type of benchmarking is helpful at directing organizations to fill gaps in their offerings. Component to measuring features or services, is measuring satisfaction. For people using a product or service, we need to know how much they value it or what they hate about it. The survey question works with branches. Question 1: Do you use X? If so, Question 2: how would you rate X? Question 3: Why did you say that? WAV Group also measures adoption. This is sometimes the funny part. We get adoption numbers if they are counted, and we also ask customers if they use a product. Our current national MLS survey has a question about RE Technology. Do you use RE Technology? How long have you used RE Technology? Some agents indicated that they have used RE Technology, and a number of other products like RPR for 10 years (RE Technology and RPR have only been around for 3 years). What customers do and what they think they do are often very different things. There is much to be learned from this. At the end of the day, the performance of a brokerage, MLS, Association, or Technology company comes down to communication and execution. A bunch of leading MLSs and Associations do a good job at this. Houston Association is a good example, but there are plenty others. Pretty much every Mega-Board is nailing it – I pay attention to Orlando, Las Vegas, Long Island, Metro-Tex, Main Street and others. MRIS is a good example, I also pay attention to MRED, MLSListings,  The MLS Claw, Sandicor, MLSPIN, MyFlorida MLS and a bunch of others. As for brokers, I like what Intero is doing. They have three posts each week that go out to all of the agents. One comes from the CEO, another comes from the company Attorney, and […]

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Who Has Better Service – Real Estate or the DMV?

by Marilyn Wilson on August 13, 2012

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So here’s a good one for you…isn’t the DMV one of those organizations that everyone just loves to hate?   These bureaucratic organizations have been the brunt of many jokes over the years. They’re known for their rude and inefficient people and processes, right? I say, not so fast, though. We love to criticize them, but guess what?   The DMV in California now sends customer satisfaction surveys out to their recent “guests”.  In the California DMV they have implemented a ticketing system that makes it easy to get in and out of the office quickly. Why?  Because they listened to their customers and responded to their needs? They added a bunch more chairs too! Most importantly, the service levels of their representatives have improved a LOT!  They are pleasant, helpful, courteous and don’t treat you like criminals when you’re getting your license renewed like they used to!  Hats off to the California DMV for getting their act together! Now, if even the DMV can ask for input from their customers, what’s wrong with us in the real estate industry?  We sell something a LOT more valuable than a driver’s license or a boat trailer registration!  Why is it so impossible for us to understand the importance of performance transparency in every other part of our lives except our own backyard! I feel like a broken record about this, sometimes, but I just don’t understand why we find it so hard to understand why consumers want feedback on the sales professional selling them the most important asset in their lives! Come on, team! It’s time to wake up and respond. KUDO’s again to the California Association of REALTORS® for launching REALTOR® Ratings and providing members the opportunity to display results on ratedagent.com .  It’s really helping to bring the “oh so overdue” transparency the home buying consumer has been clamoring for!   This program is proving that better service quality translates into more business!.  The C.A.R. stats say that 83% of customers that have been participated in the REALTOR® Ratings program are satisfied with their agent while the national average is only 52%.  Happy customers equals more commission checks for REALTORS®.  That’s a good thing for everyone! Will you join me in helping our industry to get over its insecurity and ignorance in addressing this very important consumer need?   It’s critical to the long-term survival of our craft!  If we don’t do it, […]

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RE Technology weekly traffic

by Victor Lund on August 10, 2012

RE Technology Success Store

In a way, RE Technology is a sand box for WAV Group. We get the opportunity to look at patterns of behavior and communications among real estate agents and brokers on a macro level and a micro level. Recently, we began to modify activities to determine how it may impact RE Technology readership. Our latest test was to change the time that the RE Technology daily digest goes out. The RE Technology daily digest is an interesting communication tool. Only agents who opt into getting the RE Technology newsletter receive it. Most agents choose to access RE Technology content through the message of the day in their MLS system. I appreciate that many agents do not want any more email. Regardless, our staff came up with the idea that the digest should go out in the morning before Inman News and RIS Media. RE Technology is not a news site, but we do publish press releases in the digest. The notion was that our audience would get our newsletter first; read it first; and think that we were closer to the pulse of the industry. It sounded like a good argument, so we set it, and forgot about it. Recently, we made upgrades to the daily digest. Readers wanted to be able to share the digest with others, and wanted to be able to access past newsletters as a reference. We added this functionality and when we pushed the new newsletter to our production servers, we once again discussed the timing. Traditionally, the digest started sending at 3 a.m. PST; 6 a.m. EST. We developed a new theory based upon personal habits that, when an agent gets to their computer in the morning, their inbox is stuffed with newsletters and they scan them and delete them as quickly as possible. That is what I do. Why would an agent or broker  be any different?  The team agreed to move the time to 8 a.m. PST, 11 EST to see how our traffic would change. Presumably when you send tens of thousands of emails at a different time of the day, user behavior will change…. Guess what…. Here is the illustration                   As you can see from the chart – we compared 5 days of traffic in June (250,000 visits) to another 5 days of traffic in July (250,000 visits). We only looked at Monday through […]

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Many real estate brokers believe that search engine optimization is a key tactic to master in their online strategy. There is a tendency to use statistics to make assumptions about your search engine optimization strategy that can lead you astray and have you investing your efforts and marketing dollars ineffectively. We all know the NAR research. 35% of buyers and 40% of sellers start their home search online. This is a totally misunderstood statistic. It does not tell us where the consumer starts their search online. Do not assume that it is a search engine like google, MSN, AOL, or Yahoo. Do not assume that it is Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, or Homefinder. Understanding how the consumer gets to you is the key to your online success. The great news is that your broker website has an analytics program like Google Analytics that will give you the answer. The primary goal of your search engine strategy is to drive traffic to your website that results in leads and sales.  How you optimize your search engine keyword strategy is predicated on the outcomes related to conversion. Component to understanding lead conversion by keyword is the engagement level that comes from sources like search engines or portals. If traffic from a particular keyword results in high bounce rates (consumers view 1 page and leave your site), low pages per visit, or shorter than average time on site – drop that keyword optimization. The real truth in online effectiveness for brokers is optimizing around your brand, your agents, and your listings first. Only after you have succeeded should you look for generic keywords like cityname + real estate. This white paper explores a case study that outlines the truth about search engine optimization for brokers using real broker data as a benchmark for you to aim at. Please download the report with our compliments, and feel free to express your feedback here or via email to Victor Lund at victor@wavgroup.com. To download this white paper, click here.

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dotLoop and Trulia partner up

by Victor Lund on August 2, 2012

Press Release: SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Aug 01, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — INMAN CONNECT — dotloop, the first real estate software company that eliminates paperwork and Trulia, a leading online marketplace for homebuyers, sellers, renters and real estate professionals, today announced a partnership to simplify the real estate process from search to close. As part of the partnership program, Trulia and dotloop will jointly promote their online real estate services to agents and homebuyers. Under the partnership, Trulia and dotloop will jointly promote both services to member agents, and help simplify real estate transactions by bringing the process online. More than 20 percent of real estate agents in the US and Canada currently use dotloop to eliminate paperwork in their real estate transactions, and approximately 40 percent of active real estate agents use Trulia. “Real estate is rapidly moving online as consumers at every stage of the process expect a more digital experience,” said dotloop CEO Austin Allison. “We’re proud to partner with Trulia to help agents satisfy that demand and to simplify the entire process around real estate transactions, from marketing to consumers on Trulia to easily closing deals on dotloop.” “Every day, Trulia connects agents to our engaged audience of consumers, a large number of whom are planning to move,” said Trulia CEO Pete Flint. “This partnership is a natural extension for agents meeting buyers and sellers on Trulia to sign and close on a transaction with dotloop.” Both Trulia and dotloop offer free products for agents and their clients to use. To find out more, visit www.dotloop.com and www.trulia.com/truliapro today. About dotloop Dotloop is transforming the real estate industry by providing a secure online platform where any real estate agent can share and electronically sign transaction documents in real-time. As the leading provider of collaborative negotiation services, dotloop is available to service all real estate professionals throughout the United States and Canada. The innovative dotloop platform is a collaborative, wholly web-based negotiation platform that lets users add, adjust, approve and sign documents digitally — addressing the challenges of security, efficiency and overhead costs in today’s real estate industry. For more information, please visit www.dotloop.com . ABOUT TRULIA, INC. Trulia gives home buyers, sellers, owners and renters the inside scoop on properties, places and real estate professionals. Trulia has unique info on the areas people want to live that can’t be found anywhere else: users can learn about […]

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